Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir directs the field during the IPL Twenty20 cricket match against Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur. AFP Photo/Sajjad Hussain
Gautam Gambhir hasn’t looked in a happy space of late. The reasons for this unease, though, aren’t difficult to fathom. For almost a year now, the going hasn’t been great for the left-hander. His form has played hide and seek, injuries have taken a toll. And his plainspeaking has stirred a few controversies, and, in the latest setback, he has been bypassed for the India vice-captaincy.
Against this backdrop, this IPL season becomes critical for the feisty left-hander. It’s an opportunity for him to hit the purple patch with the bat again, and also prove a point with his captaincy. And boy, does he like to prove a point? Just remember his animated celebrations when he got that overdue hundred in the Asia Cup.
Unfortunately, his start hasn’t been encouraging, neither as a batsman or skipper, with Kolkata Knight Riders losing their first two games. What has set the tongues wagging is him keeping in-form Shakib al Hasan on the bench. The Bangladesh all-rounder is in top form, and brings a lot to the table. And in the opener, Gambhir couldn’t get Brett Lee, his strike bowler, bowl his quota of three overs. In hindsight, it proved decisive.
It is just the start of a long journey, as he said after the loss, but there are reasons to worry. First, momentum plays a big role in T20, and it gets tough to halt a losing spree. Secondly, the teams they lost to (Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals) are lightweights (Delhi were without Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardene, Ross Taylor and David Warner). Thus, they blew a perfect opportunity to have some wins under their belt before running into the real heavyweights, which they do on Tuesday against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The RCB are definitely not the team one would like to face after two losses in a row. The hosts will be at full strength with Chris Gayle having recovered from a groin injury and Tillakaratne Dilshan having joined them.